Kids Coding

Scratch 3.0: We Have Lift Off!!

Murray Roberts

Issue 18, December 2018

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On the 2nd of January 2019, the team at MIT Media Lab will release Scratch 3.0. We take a look at all the new bells and whistles for the exciting launch.

It’s hard to believe that Scratch 2.0 is over 5 years old, and 15 years since the first version! In that time, Scratch has been able to teach many tens of millions of kids how to code. A glance at their impressive community statistics shows over 33 million registered users, over 35 million projects shared, and over 20 million unique visits to their website every month!

With the choice of desktop and online editor in 70 different languages, and its intuitive interface, Scratch has been welcomed in homes, schools, and institutions all over the world. Statistics show that people of all ages use Scratch, but mostly between the ages of 8 and 16, have been creating their own interactive stories, games, and animations.

Note: If you are not familiar with Scratch you can learn more by reading our ‘Quick Guide to Scratch 2.0’ in Issue 17.

Considering that school curriculums are putting more emphasis on teaching children problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and more, Scratch ticks a lot of boxes. In a short amount of time, children are immersed in arts, designing colourful characters and backdrops, creating music, using mathematics, learning angles, logical reasoning, and much more.

WHAT’S NEW

Many improvements to 3.0 have been driven to make it user-friendly on Tablets. The shiny new interface has larger buttons to make it easier for fingers to push the blocks around on a screen, etc. We will discuss the interface in detail and dive deeper into the other more notable improvements.

We should note that Scratch 3.0 is already available to use in a Beta testing form, so you can already take it for a test drive yourself at https://beta.scratch.mit.edu/

Most of the core improvements are already functional in the Beta. However, things like project sharing, Backpack and a few Extensions will be unavailable until launch, understandably. You won’t be able to log in until launch, but you can upload and download any projects you create.

If you already have some projects you made in 2.0 you can try these out in the new 3.0 editor by selecting the “View 2.0 Project”.

Let’s take a look at many of the exciting improvements.

MORE SPRITES: Many more sprite characters have been added for you to choose from, saving you from designing your own. A cool feature is how sprites with more than one costume animate when you hover over them.

MORE CREATIVE BACKDROPS: The illustrators have been busy adding many more exciting backdrops and refreshing older ones. There’s a mix of real photography and illustrations.

MORE IMPRESSIVE SOUNDS: You’ll have fun going through all of the new sounds added by their talented musicians. Everything from musical notes of different instruments in various keys, to wacky sound effects. There’s even Beat Box sounds to make your own beatbox piece. The audio plays when you hover your mouse over the icon.

SUPRISE ME: A fun addition is the Surprise button on the Sprite and Backdrop menu. If you’re not sure which Backdrop or Sprite to choose you can just use this random surprise button.

NEW AND IMPROVED BLOCKS

SOUND EFFECTS BLOCKS: New sound blocks allow you to change the audio’s pitch or set to pan the audio between the left and right speaker.

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NEW OPERATOR: This new Operator makes it easier to work with text strings. For example, perform an action when a word contains a specified letter or number.

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PEN BLOCKS: Control the colour saturation, brightness and transparency in Pen Blocks.

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NEW GLIDE BLOCK: This new block makes your sprite glide smoothly for a specified number of seconds to another sprite, mouse-pointer or a random position.

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LARGER BLOCKS: Blocks are larger to make it easier for them to drag-and-drop on Tablets. Here’s a comparison between Scratch 2.0 and Scratch 3.0 blocks.

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SETTING VISUALS: Some blocks now have a more intuitive and visual way to select the setting. For example, the ‘point in direction’ block pops out a small window for you to adjust a dial to select the direction, instead of having to know angles.

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INTERFACE OVERHAUL

The layout of the screen has been improved to make it more user-friendly on a desktop, laptop and now for Tablets. It still has many similarities to Scratch 2.0 so it won’t be difficult for users to transition across.

  • If someone is using Scratch 3.0 for the first time, it will be much more intuitive to use compared to starting with 2.0. There is also a Tutorials button to get users started.
  • The Stage is now on the right side of the screen, instead of the left. The Stage can be set to two sizes or expanded to fit the full screen.
  • Block groups are now on the far left of the screen. ‘Data’ has been renamed as ‘Variables’ to be less scary to kids.
  • The Blocks are now listed in the same panel so you can simply scroll up or down to find the one you need, without the need to click the Groups button first.
  • Adding Sprites, Extensions and Backdrops is now easier with animated buttons that expand when you click them, then appear compact when not in use to declutter the screen.
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OTHER IMPROVEMENTS

In Scratch 2.0, users needed to make a Variable from scratch, which was a little daunting for beginners. Scratch 3.0 already has a Variable created called “my variable” to make it easier to get started. It’s easy enough to rename the variable, make more or to delete them.

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SOUND EDITOR IMPROVEMENTS: Adding sounds, musical instruments or recordings to your project is a lot simpler with the overhauled sound editor. It is now much easier to record and trim audio to suit your project, and there are new sound effects to make the audio faster, slower, echo or robot sounding.

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PAINT EDITOR ADVANCES: Scratch is great at getting kids to become more creative with the Paint Editor. The editor in 3.0 has been significantly improved to make it a lot easier to use, while adding some extra cool features too.

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  • You can now use the Eraser tool in vector mode.
  • More control over vector points to create complex shapes, including curves.
  • It is now easier to control the layer order to make graphics appear in front or behind other objects.
  • More controls to produce better gradients.
  • Selecting and adjusting colours is now a lot easier.

There are also controls for brightness and saturation.

  • Setting outline thickness is also much easier.

NEW EXTENSIONS

Extensions are collections of extra blocks that you can add to your project. Some of them allow you to interface with the real world, from using the camera on your computer to controlling LEGO robotics kits.

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If you plan to use any of the Extensions in your project, you simply click the ‘Add Extension’ button in the bottom left of the screen and select what Extension you need. The controls and blocks for that Extension will then appear in the main interface.

More extensions will be added over time too, which is very exciting!

VIDEO SENSING: This extension is very cool. It enables your camera to be shown in the Stage area, so you can sense motion from an object in the room. Control blocks allow you to turn the camera on or off, adjust the video’s transparency, flip the video, detect movement or direction, and more. You can even set your project to start when it detects motion through the camera.

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TRANSLATE: Have you ever used Google Translate? Now you can translate text in your project into another language. There are 40 different languages in the Beta version, from Albanian to Zulu.

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TEXT TO SPEECH: Turn words or sentences into spoken words you can hear. You can adjust the voice effects between alto, tenor, squeak, giant or kitten (Kitten just says “meow” for every word... it’s quite funny).

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There are also 14 different language settings, including French, German, Japanese, and Spanish, which makes your speech sound as if it’s spoken by someone in the same tongue. Hopefully, more languages are added over time.

MICRO:BIT: micro:bit is a small circuit board that helps kids learn to code and create with technology. It has many features including an LED display, buttons, and a motion sensor. By using Bluetooth and a small program called Scratch Link, you can connect the micro:bit to Scratch and build creative projects that combine the magic of the digital and physical worlds. It is both Mac and Windows compatible.

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LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3: LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 is an invention kit with motors and sensors you can use to build interactive robotic creations. Similar to micro:bit that we just explained, you connect the EV3 to your Mac or Windows computer via Bluetooth and a small program called Scratch Link. This allows you to also combine the magic of the digital and physical worlds.

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LEGO WEDO 2.0: This was already supported in Scratch 2.0. LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 is an introductory invention kit you can use to build interactive robots and other creations. You connect the WeDo to your Mac or Windows computer via Bluetooth and a small program called Scratch Link. You can then snap together Scratch programming blocks to interact with your LEGO WeDo creations and add animations and sounds.

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SUMMARY

Anything that teaches kids to code is a fantastic thing, and Scratch 3.0 certainly delivers. The intuitive interface with colourful drag-and-drop blocks makes it so easy for kids to quickly make their own projects. The lighthearted approach to include amusing character sprites, colourful backdrops, and wacky sounds makes it so entertaining for kids.

The new Extensions to interface to the real world is very exciting. Projects will only be limited by the child’s imagination, and we know they have incredible imaginations!

According to the CoderDojo website, there are plans for a Raspberry Pi Extension. We couldn't find anything on the MIT website to confirm this, however. Our fingers are crossed that this will be the case. There is also mention of speech recognition blocks, which would take projects to an all new level.

The Tutorials within Scratch make it really easy to quickly come up to speed, however, we've put some of our own together that you can follow over the next two pages. They use some of the new features in Scratch 3.0.

We'll also make the projects available in the Resources section of our website, which you can upload into Scratch online.

Have fun!

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Scratch 3.0 Tutorial:

Take Off To Saturn

Let’s show you a few fun space themed tutorials to demonstrate some of the new features of Scratch 3.0.

If you are using these Tutorials before the Scratch 3.0 launch then go to https://beta.scratch.mit.edu If you are reading this after January 2nd 2019 then go to https://scratch.mit.edu

Let’s have some fun and send a Rocketship with Russian speaking astronauts from our purple planet to Saturn.

The following tutorial will use the new Glide Block, Transparent Pen, Text-to-Speech and Translate.

This small project will also teach you how to add Extensions, control scripts using keys on the keyboard, Repeat loops, and much more.

You can follow our step-by-step instructions below to make the project, or download the full project from the Resources section on our website by going to this link: https://diyode.io/018txjd You can upload this project to Scratch and start using straight away.

Add the Space Backdrop and Sprites

  • Delete the Cat Sprite from the Sprite area by clicking the round blue cross in the Cat Sprite thumbnail.
  • Add the Space backdrop by selecting the Backdrops button in the lower right, ‘Choose a Backdrop’, search and select the ‘Space City 2’ image.
  • Add the Rocketship Sprite by selecting ‘Choose a Sprite’, search and select the ‘Rocketship’.
  • Add the Saturn planet Sprite by selecting ‘Choose a Sprite’, search and select the ‘Planet2’.

Add a code script for the Planet Sprite

  • Highlight the Saturn sprite and add the following blocks and settings shown in the image below.
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Code Explanation

This script controls our planet Sprite. When the Flag start block is triggered, our planet will go to the 110 pixel position on the y-axis and a random position on the x-axis between -200 and 200 pixels.

Add the code Blocks for the Rocketship

  • Next, we will add our code script for the Rocketship Sprite. Before we do though, we first need to enable the ‘Pen’, ‘Text to Speech’ and ‘Translate’ Extensions because some of our blocks come from these Extensions. Go ahead and add these three Extensions, which will appear in the list on the left of the screen.
  • Next, highlight the Rocketship Sprite and add the following code blocks. Take your time and make sure you make all the same settings within the Blocks. We will detail each of them separately to explain what they do.
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Code Explanation

The first script puts our Rocketship Sprite at the bottom middle of the Stage (x:0, y:-125). It changes the Rocketship to the ‘e’ costume, and sets it to 100% size and points it straight up. The ‘erase all’ Pen block removes the Pen mark from a previously run project.

The Glide script moves our Rocketship Sprite. When you press the Space Bar on your keyboard, the Rocketship Sprite will glide towards the Planet2 Sprite for 4 seconds. This Glide Block is new to Scratch 3.0.

The Pen script makes our Rocketship look like it has a smoke trail as it blasts off. When we press the Space Bar a grey coloured line that is 30 pixels wide will appear under our Rocketship Sprite. This has a transparency setting of 90, which makes our space backdrop appear through the “smoke”. This transparency feature is new to Scratch 3.0.

The costume script makes our Rocketship appear like it is taking off and moving towards the planet. When we press the Space Bar, the ‘a’ costume will be shown. We bring the Rocketship Sprite to the front layer so it will appear on top and not behind the Planet. The Repeat Until Loop block will make the Rocketship smaller until it is touching the Planet2 Sprite.

When the Rocketship touches the Planet2 we wait for half a second, change the costume back to ‘a’, then we say “We landed” in Russian. This shows the Russian words on the Stage above the Rocketship. We then say “We landed”, which will sound Russian because of the next script.

The language script sets the language to Russian sounding and then we say “We have lift off” when you press the Space Bar.

The final script is to make our rocket sound as if it has taken off. When you press the Space Bar, the sound “Teleport” will play. To be able to choose the “Teleport” sound, you will first need to go to ‘Sounds’ menu tab, press the ‘Choose a Sound’ button in the lower left, search in the Sounds library and select “Teleport”.

TEST YOUR PROJECT

With all the above-mentioned scripts in the scripting area, we can go ahead and test it. Press the Green Flag. The Rocketship should appear sitting at the centre bottom of the stage, and the Saturn in a random position above.

When you press the Space Bar, we should see the Rocketship lift off and get smaller as it goes towards Saturn. At the same time, we should hear “We have lift off” in a Russian accent, and the sound of the Rocket taking off. Make sure your speakers are turned up and the audio setting isn’t set to mute.

If your Russian astronaut successfully lands on Saturn you should see some Russian text that means “We landed” and you will also hear it in your speakers.

If any of the above doesn’t work, then check all of the scripts and settings. If you are unsuccessful, you can download our project from our website and compare to your project.